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Before the EeePC and its many imitators created a new, rapidly growing segment in the market (that of the cheap ultra-portable), the most popular type of laptop was the averagely specified 15.4 incher. This size offers the ideal mixture of portability and screen real estate for many users, and allows manufacturers to put in features and components at the cheapest possible price, and this is precisely the segment at which Toshiba is aiming its Satellite A300-177.
Design-wise, Toshiba has been on a bit of a roll lately, with the gorgeous Regza 40ZF355D 40in LCD TV and the curvaceously attractive DynaDock being recent examples. It's a pity, then, that its winning streak seems to have hit a speed bump with the ‘striking new design' it has instituted across its Satellite range.
The first thing that slightly bothers me about the A300 is that it never looks like a complete whole when shut. The lid is raised off the base because both are curved, and protective rubber pads accentuate this further. If I had to sum up the Satellite's physical design in two words, I would say curvy and high-gloss, which very much brings to mind the HP Pavilion dv6750ea. But unlike HP's attractive Imprint finish, Toshiba's Fusion finish is dull and uninspired (it looks better in the pictures than in real life, honestly).
The design basically consists of stripes. Yes, the company's revolutionary new ‘Horizon' pattern is just a bunch of plain, straight lines that narrow towards the edges. And on the notebook's lid, they come in a sickly-grey colour against a graphite grey background. Depending on lighting conditions, this makes the machine look washed-out when closed, an effect not helped by the large off-white Toshiba logo in its centre. Nor does being able to see every fingerprint under most conditions pretty things up much, though you can always use the lid as a mirror. Of course, looks are a matter of taste, and if you like pin-striped suits (which Toshiba does actually refer to in its marketing), the A300-177 might suit you (sir).
Fortunately, things improve somewhat when the laptop is opened up. Though we still have the same pattern and glossy finish, this time it consists of silver stripes on piano black. Surprisingly, the black finish extends to the keyboard, which makes this the only laptop with a glossy keyboard we have ever encountered.
And that's not a good thing. Not only does it fail to look particularly attractive (something that might have been remedied slightly by extending the striped pattern across it), but it gives the keys an odd feel and makes them slightly slippery, not to mention finger-print magnets. All of which is a pity, since apart from that it's actually quite good. What it lacks in travel it makes up for with an assured ‘click' response, and layout is logical, with the FN key in its proper place (between the CTRL and Windows keys) and an enlarged ENTER key.